Two wild pitches in the 12th inning scored South Carolina’s winning run and ended Alabama’s chance at its first SEC sweep since 2017. The Gamecocks beat Alabama 5-4 on Saturday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium after losing Friday’s doubleheader.
Alabama went to closer Jeremy Randolph in the 12th with a runner on first even after he had thrown 39 pitches across three innings on Friday. South Carolina’s Luke Berryhill stole second, then moved to third on the first wild pitch as rain began to fall. Randolph gave up a walk, then threw another wild pitch to allow Berryhill to score.
“I don’t think it was the rain,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “It was the first time we used him on back-to-back days and he was extended a little bit yesterday. Jeremy is a grown man, he is tough as nails. He wants the ball every single day. I would just say he wasn’t sharp. You don’t know how kids are going to bounce back and respond until you do that. I try not to do that in February because it can be detrimental in April or May.”
Alabama (22-11, 4-8 SEC) was retired in order in the 12th as South Carolina (19-13, 3-9 SEC) nailed down the win.
The Crimson Tide had trailed 4-0 after two innings but tied the game with two runs in the third and two runs in the fifth. The bullpen held South Carolina scoreless for nine straight innings, but Alabama couldn’t push the go-ahead run across.
“We never feel like we’re out of a game,” center fielder Joe Breaux said. “You can’t lose sight of the fact of having competitive bats at any time.”
There were two near-misses late for Alabama. The Crimson Tide had two outs in the ninth before putting runners on first and third, but a ground ball ended that threat. Another two-out rally in the 10th put runners on first and second for catcher Brett Auerbach. He rocketed a ball that was narrowly snagged by the shortstop to end the inning.
“I felt like when Brett Auerbach smoked that ball, if it had been about four inches further into the six hole…” Bohannon said. “Their shortstop made an amazing play. We hit our ball hard at them and didn’t do enough late.”
Alabama had played mostly mistake-free in the two wins on Friday, but gave South Carolina extra opportunities in the series finale. Randolph’s two wild pitches that allowed the game-winning run were part of that; so was an error in the first inning. Left fielder Keith Holcombe let a ball bounce past him that scored South Carolina’s first run. The Gamecocks’ other run that inning scored from second on the next at-bat. He would have been at first if not for the error.
Starting pitcher Tyler Ras also struggled for the second straight week since returning to the weekend rotation. He was lifted after one-plus inning, giving up two hits in the second against South Carolina. He was also pulled in the second inning at Florida last week after just five outs.
“We’ve got to do a better job of pitching on the front end of the game,” Bohannon said. “Most of those teams that are playing in June have three starters that are throwing a little deeper in the game. This is our 12th league game, I think the fourth time we’ve had to go to the bullpen in the second inning. I’d like to prevent that going forward.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.